Olives and Wine: the old farming ways are paying off in Spain.
20 olive farms in the Andalucian region joined up with Olivares Vivos in 2016 and received financial support as part of the EU’s Life programme. The farms adopted a regenerative agriculture model. This meant that rather than plow between all the olive trees, grass and wildflowers were allowed to grow. Local varieties were also planted and ponds were created and nest boxes were installed. This was all done to increase birdlife and insect life too.
This is part of the world’s largest study on olive grove biodiversity and it is proving to be a fantastic success. Researchers from the University of Jaen and the higher council for scientific research (CSIC) joined in with the initiative.
Over the space of three years’ researchers found that the bee population increased in the olive groves by a staggering 47 per cent. Birdlife also soon returned to the areas and grew by 10 per cent. As the environment changed rabbits soon thrived and birds of prey returned too.
Paco Montabes said: “What we are doing is returning to more traditional ways,”
“Not ploughing between the trees makes for better water retention, less erosion and run-offs after heavy rain. The vegetal covering makes the ground sponge-like and absorbs the rain.” Paco farms around 1,600 acres of olives in Spain’s Jaen.
Recently olive oil growers have suffered financially and it seemed that the only people to make a profit was those involved in the bottling process and companies selling the oil commercially. With this new approach pesticides are reduced, which saves the growers money and the oil can be marketed at a premium.
Jose Eugenio Gutierrez, of the conservation organisation SEO Birdlife has explained that hundreds of growers are now interested in taking on the regenerative model.
“You can grow under plastic and it’s still classed as ecological,” said Gutierrez
“We needed to create labelling that guarantees the product is produced through regenerative agriculture.”
The regenerative model is not only confined to olives though and winemakers in Spain have adopted the process too.
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